Climate change a global emergency, Malaysia headed the other way

By , in World on .

The latest UN climate survey has revealed that two-thirds of 1.2 million people surveyed worldwide agree that climate change is now a global emergency, urging greater action to address the crisis. 

Described as the biggest climate survey conducted thus far, the UN Development Programme’s People’s Climate Vote showed that people are increasingly supportive of more comprehensive policies to respond to the climate threats society. 

The poll, conducted unconventionally as an in-game advert to those playing mobile games such as angry birds and subway surfers, asked about their age, gender, and education, as well as their views on climate and policies. This approach meant people in some countries were canvassed for their views on climate change for the first time, including Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

The survey covered 50 countries with over half of the world’s population and consisted of over half a million people under the age of 18, a key constituency for climate change. Respondents were asked if climate change was a global emergency and whether they supported 18 key climate policies across six action areas: economy, energy, transport, food and farms, nature, and protecting people. 

Detailed results broken down by age, gender, and education level will be shared with governments around the world by the United Nations Development Programme, which organized the poll with the University of Oxford. Polling experts at Oxford weighted the huge sample to make it representative of the age, gender, and education population profiles of the countries in the survey, resulting in small margins of error of +/- 2%.

climate change
UNDP Bhutan

Results show that people want broad climate policies beyond the current state of play. For example, in eight of the ten survey countries with the highest emissions from the power sector, respondents backed more renewable energy. In four out of the five countries with the highest emissions from land-use change, there was majority support for conserving forests and land. Nine out of ten countries with the most urbanized populations backed more use of clean electric cars and buses or bicycles.

UNDP’s Achim Steiner said that the results of the survey clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe and that the poll reveals how people want policymakers to tackle the crisis. From climate-friendly farming to protecting nature and investing in a green recovery from COVID-19, the survey brought the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate.

Policies had wide-ranging support, most popular being conserving forests and land (54%), more solar, wind, and renewable power (53%), adopting climate-friendly farming techniques (52%) and investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%). 

Prof. Stephen Fisher at the Department of Sociology, Oxford said that the survey shows that mobile gaming networks can not only reach a lot of people, but it can also engage different kinds of people in a diverse group of countries and that recognition of the climate emergency is much more widespread than previously thought. 

The survey shows a direct link between a person’s level of education and their desire for climate action as there was very high recognition of the climate emergency among those who had attended university or college in all countries, from lower-income countries such as Bhutan (82%) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (82%) to wealthy countries like France (87%) and Japan (82%).

According to a U.N. study, the world is expected to have a population of about 8.5 billion people in 2030 — a 10 percent increase in just 10 years. India will surpass China to become the world’s most populous nation, while demographers forecast a pronounced population surge in sub-Saharan Africa, which will be home to the world’s most youthful societies. The number of megacities may double by the end of the decade, with close to two-thirds of humanity living in urban centers.

2030 also represents a major milestone for international organizations and climate scientists. According to experts, without huge, unprecedented cuts to carbon emissions over the next decade, the world would place itself on the brink of climate disaster. Subsequent studies suggested that, even if these demands were met, it would take decades to measure any discernible effects.

There are reasons for hope. Governments have embraced ambitious plans to transition their economies toward being carbon neutral. The Biden administration intends to add momentum to global climate efforts abandoned by President Trump, whilst Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China aims to hit peak emissions before 2030 and for carbon neutrality by 2060. 

The World Economic Forum foresees a future in 2030 where urban centers are transformed into zones shaped by pedestrian activity, technology increasingly obviates the need to own cars, fewer people eat meat, and renewable, clean energy dominates the energy sector.

That’s the rosy view.

Malaysia ranks near the bottom in the Global Climate Change Index, which compares the climate protection performance of countries responsible for 90% of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, Malaysia dropped to 56th place to rank among the bottom 10 countries. By comparison, Indonesia and Thailand ranked 24th and 26th place, respectively.

The demands of a rising middle class in the developing world may prove a challenge to decarbonization efforts, while climate skepticism may further drive a host of right-wing movements in the West. Rather than serve as a warning to the world, melting ice caps in the Arctic are opening new trade lanes and avenues for exploration, stoking a new era of geopolitical competition. All the while, scientists predict an increasing number of extreme weather events wracking the world and destabilizing vulnerable communities.

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